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Play Showcases the Plight of Zimbabean Refugees in Southern Africa

Civic organizations in Botswana recently presented a play highlighting the human rights abuses and violations Zimbabweans in the country are subjected to. It focuses on the plight of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, as they continue their search for better opportunities. Martin Ngwenya saw the play and filed this report.

The play is titled "Voice of the People". Its main theme tackles the dismal lives and problems confronting Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, including xeonophobia.

The play features both Zimbabwean and Botswana actors. It's a frank account of the hardships endured by immigrants in a new environment. In particular, it zooms in on the suspicion and mistrust with which Zimbabweans are often viewed in countries like Botswana and South Africa.

The opening scene portrays a post on the Zimbabwe/Botswana border. Immigration officials are seen abusing and belittling Zimbabwean immigrants. Their journey then continues to the streets of the capital, Gaborone, where foreigners scramble for odd jobs.... only to attract the scorn and wrath of locals. Police harassment is the order of the day. The play questions the attitudes of law enforcement and government officials.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabweans yearn for the day when they'll be able to return to their homeland. At the end, the main characters appeal to the leadership to listen to the "voice of the people".

One Zimbabwean actor, who requested anonymity, says the drama reflects the views and tribulations of ordinary Zimbabweans in Botswana.

He says the play is the result of extensive interviews with Zimbabweans both in Botswana and South Africa.

"What we are reflecting," he says,"are the real issues raised by the people. We carried out interviews before we came up with the show and we want ordinary people to say yes, these are the issues that affect us. Leaders are not affected; it is the ordinary person who is suffering. We hope that at the end of the day, the leaders can hear the voices of the people on the ground."

The play was part of a series of activities specifically lined up to focus on human rights abuses.

Other events included a photo exhibition by Amnesty International featuring images of Zimbabwe in the run-up to the March 29 elections and the violence that followed.